By Lara Bell –
As if you haven’t noticed, the housing market in Houston is exploding, and since June is a big month for home remodeling and building, we wanted to see what made female builder Erin Stetzer, owner of Stetzer Builders, decide to jump into what once was deemed a “man’s world.”
AM: When did you decide to become a builder, and what made you decide to pick up a hammer?
ES: I found that life works best when we are honest about what we want to be doing. I played Division 1 basketball at Fairfield University, which I loved, and graduated with a Finance degree, which was what felt “safe” at the time. After a lot of frustration and wasted time, I realized my greatest strengths weren’t being utilized, and I wanted to figure out a better way to do that. I had dreamed of building homes but was afraid to take the leap from the corporate car and expense account to creating my own path. So, I looked back on my career in basketball and realized that working extremely hard at something I love is easy. I started building homes 15 years ago and haven’t looked back since!
AM: Were you ever nervous about starting a company that has predominantly been a man’s profession?
ES: During my high school years, I would play city pick-up basketball with the boys all summer long, so I was definitely accustomed to bursting out of my comfort zone on a daily basis. During this time, I learned a valuable lesson: feel the fear, and bring it! I was nervous but so grateful to have the opportunity to do what I love. I owe my parents for helping me develop the strength and integrity to break into a field that I knew would be challenging and rewarding all at once.
AM: What do your clients think that having a woman builder sets you apart from male builders?
ES: Women are natural caregivers, protectors and communicators. We can facilitate relationships gracefully and have a deep sense of appreciation. All of these qualities bode well when a client hands me the key to creating their dreams. We work until issues are 100% resolved. We ask for and listen to feedback from our clients and trade base. We say “no” when necessary because we don’t have time to waste. Women hold very little weight in our ego, so we welcome new ideas and talent. We truly care about the family unit and understand how challenging and disruptive the building process can be, so we do everything we can to make it easy and fun.
AM: What are some of the trends in remodels you are seeing now?
ES: There are several.
Special Purpose Rooms: Turning a space into a craft room, gift-wrapping center or locker area for the kids. Families are focused more on the utilitarian and less on wasted spaces in the home.
Smaller Homes: The economy has asked us to look at what we really need versus what we really want.
Accessibility: As our parents age, families are thinking more about the future with wider openings on the first floor, roll in showers and overall more accessibility in spaces. We are seeing more custom homes and remodels with an extra bedroom and bathroom on the first floor.
Green Projects/Energy Efficiencies: There are so many new choices that are eco-friendly and environmentally conscious. New forms of insulation make homes more energy efficient. No and low VOC paints and materials give us peace of mind knowing we are creating a safe environment for our trade base and families. Tankless water heaters also help with energy conservation.
Outdoor Living Areas: Families are spending more time in their yards, so we are creating some fabulous outdoor kitchens and living spaces where families can bond with each other and enjoy nature.
AM You have kids. Please tell me their builder mom has built them a fabulous tree house or something!
ES: We have four kids under the age of nine. They wish they had a tree house, but building houses for others has not left me a lot of time to build one for them! We focus on truly enjoying our moments together. It is so challenging in this world now to control our attention, so we practice this at home. We find music in the mundane, we say our prayers at bedtime, laugh a lot and cry a lot! One of my favorite questions for each child at bedtime is, “What went well today, and why?” They are learning that life does not just happen to you; we make choices and small improvements make a big difference.